Doug Allen plays Mitch, a former football hooligan and ‘Guvnor’, now seeking a more peaceful existence with his wife and young son. However he soon finds himself dragged back into his former way of life, when the opportunist gangster Adam (Harley Sylvester) intends on defeating the old guard, and ensuring he’s the most feared criminal in the area. When he attacks the well respected Mickey Snr (David Essex) – he kickstarts a war on the streets of South East London.
You see it in nature programmes, when the young challenger, lower down in the hierarchy, declares a battle with the alpha male, with all at stake for the latter. Our innate reaction is to instantly root for the old guard, hoping he can protect his status, authority and above all, dignity – and it’s a notion Turner plays up to in this title, as the ‘Guvnors’ are certainly the favourable of the two. However as a result, it does feel a little like we’re glamorising football hooliganism, looking back in an almost romanticised, nostalgic way at good old-fashioned violence, compared to the intensity of crime on the streets today, which seems somewhat irresponsible.
The film feels too theatrical too, with villains that would seem more appropriately placed in a pantomime, rather than a supposedly intense portrayal of London’s criminal underworld. Sylvester (one half of pop duo The Rizzle Kicks) turns in a more than acceptable performance in his debut feature film, yet it feels unauthentic and too hammy. Like he’s a caricature of people with this lifestyle, rather than the real thing, as he has a demeanour almost similar to that of Pete Doherty, delivering lines with a poetic swagger. On the other hand, such an approach is unique and his distinctive way of conducting himself can make for an even more unhinged, sinister character at times.
Being authentic is not hugely important in this genre, as both Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino have shown us that you can be overtly cinematic with speech, with realism falling by the wayside. However in order to achieve this, the script needs to be sharp and punchy, but this struggles in such a department. The Ritchie influences are somewhat overwhelming in this title, as Turner crosses the line from offering affectionate nods in the direction of films such as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and then having blatant, unashamed influences. There’s a scene when we’re introduced to a quirky character called Bill, played by Vas Blackwod (Rory Breaker from Lock Stock) and then moments later we meet a comical traffic warden. That being said, Turner has succeeded in updating the genre to tie in with an ever-changing society, using social media as a means of driving this narrative, in how the youngsters use the likes of YouTube to gain notoriety on the streets.
The Guvnors is a cliched, formulaic piece of cinema, and yet it does remain engaging, and exceedingly easy to watch and enjoy, even if we have seen it all before. But what does shine through is the accomplished, confident filmmaking by Turner, and hopefully with a more innovative story, he could truly make his mark in the British film industry, because the potential is patently clear.